I am not in the biz of diagnostics. For top secret reasons I have done a study of modern academic research on whether Narcissistic Personality Disorder is caused by lack of nurturing in childhood, or the alternative, coddling and being encouraged to feel superior —the upshot of that study if you’re interested, is that lack of nurturing or abandonment is the greater causal constant in the research, although when coupled with an encouraged belief in superiority well just stir in a can of orange spray paint and enough said.
In other words, if you were abandoned by a parent, and had someone in your ear telling you that you were special, not special in the loved and cared for sense but better than the other losers, well it’s time to run for office.
Fear not, I am not in your ear today to talk American politics or about what happened to the Joker to make him orange. Hurt hurts in a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns. And all “joking” aside, I am not here to vilify the narcissist either. None of us wants to be the victim. None of us wants to be the bully either. What we want, is to end the pain cycle.
I am here, rather, to give a voice to an important struggle. In a metaphysical sense I am also here eat chocolate cake and sip wine. Because I am a multi tasker. But honestly, if you haven’t gone through it yourself you likely know someone who has and could use your support, or understanding, or a hey this might help and a socially distanced hug or body guard in a heart shaped box, you Lovefool you.
Recovering from a relationship with a “narcissistic” or disordered person; aggressive, manipulative, abusive, bullying, can feel excruciating or impossible because of its crushing effects on esteem, worth and the tiny spark inside that is fighting to outlive Covid. If this is going on for you or your friend, here is what you need to know.
We all struggle with what I call the “less than” inner voice or voice of ego. On a good day it sounds like Karen, cold difficult conflict-forward, on a bad day it sounds like Led Zeppelin played backwards:
Karen. Not bad on that impressive accomplishment but you still haven’t done the recycling or fixed the gate or defeated the business empire and it’s Tuesday already.
Zeppelin. There you go again. What is wrong with you? Why are you so weak and pathetic that you cannot solve this problem? You’re just going to spend your life repeating the same mistakes over again. Your only hope is to stomp out your own shameful weakness. It’s war!
Ego is harsh. It’s designed to keep you from failing by calling you a failure. It doesn’t work, go figure. It only engenders self hatred. We all struggle with it from time to time, but when you are in relationship with a narcissist you have someone who’s “less than” ego voice is so acute that they can only survive by deflecting it on to you and their entire campaign for survival then becomes a campaign against you. They skip right over Karen and Zeppelin with a warp speed redirect to “YOU. THE ENEMY.”
Even if you are pretty sweet like a little daisy sprinkled with dew and dusted with honey.
We all have blind spots.
It’s just that bullies have a chaotic system of mirrors on pulleys in smoke filled rooms that don’t just block insight but bounce perceived threats back at the object who “threatens” them, with magnifying intensity until they light their target on fire.
I think of it as a pretty advanced defense mechanism against shame and self loathing.
At least the ones that I help you with on the daily.
Being on the receiving end of it is like living in a scary carnival scene from a horror movie, replete with evil clowns and eerie accordion and mirrors inside of mirrors.
Good good smart competent kind people get LOST in there.
I often say to my clients that I could build a spread sheet cross referencing texts and emails from bullying ex’s in coloured symmetrical patterns and they would all line up. They read a lot like:
YOU always spend all of the money
YOU are always aggressive
YOU are a bad parent
YOU are such a narcissist (this is one of my favourites)
YOU are lazy
YOU are useless
YOU only care about yourself
YOU are selfish
YOU are materialistic
YOU are a cheater
YOU are stupid, incompetent, dominating, frivolous, immoral, arrogant, difficult, superficial, oh the list goes on.
If they are unfaithful, you have a black heart.
If they are hiding money, you are a thief.
If they are violent, you are insane.
What I would like you to understand, or begin to understand today is that this is a campaign to undermine you. It’s designed to wear you down. It’s designed to prey on your vulnerabilities. It seeks out your “less than” voice like a double agent to wield it against you.
A year of this sabotage would take its toll on any average Joe.
But often it goes on for years. Plural.
And then when you try to get out of it, when you try to save yourself and your children, you face everything you have feared for years; the bully who is Kruger on a good day, now with a wrath and a vengeance, because there is nothing a bully hates more than to be called a bully. AND the 5,10, 20 years of ingrained fears that you are any or all of those hateful things your bully has painted you out to be, quite cleverly, like a prisoner who carves a weapon of abuse out of a spoon of doubt.
I get it.
I know it makes you want to lie down in a grassy field just over there and never get up again.
I know it makes you so very sad.
I know you actually, secretly LOVED this person. And you might still even love this person.
Because bullies have tender sides too. And because they often mold themselves to fit what you need.
I know that the compassionate part of your heart still bleeds for them.
And I know you are ashamed of all of it.
Of what you fear you are.
That you “let” them treat you this way.
That you didn’t get out sooner.
That you care.
And that it just keeps repeating until you are tired of talking about and living with the same thing.
You wonder if it will ever be over.
Well I’m here today with your Daisy of Hope.
I am here today to shine some fierce light —NOT on the ‘you’ that they have made you into— but on the true you that has curled up into such a tight little ball that you have forgotten what warmth and light and hope feel like.
The part that cares about things.
The part that feels alive.
The part that has something amazing to share and to give.
The part that laughs joyful laughter, not the crazy donkey meet edge cackle that rings hollow in your ears.
You need to know with absolute conviction, that you did not end up with this person because you are weak. Or a loser. Or deserved it.
We are not wired to outsmart the narcissist. We don’t want to be. Trust is healthy. Even if sometimes we cross paths with Narcissus and he siren songs us into his pool. It is a terrible awful horrible thing. But there is an answer and a way out. And on the other side of it, on the dry land, well suddenly there are all these good things that were always there that can come out of hiding.
But you’re going to need some help to do it.
You are going to need someone to guide the deprogramming.
- You need to disengage. Bullies feed off of your emotional reaction. This does not mean you need to shut down your feelings. You can’t. Not without numbing out or becoming ‘them’. But you need to disengage from them, their behaviours, their communication and their triggers. If you give them information it will be used against you, twisted, manipulated. If you defend yourself you will continue the attack cycle. You will give power to their attack by treating it as anything more than a projection and a tactic. You will make it real.
- You need to feel your pain and a healthy way to process it.
- You need protection. Boundaries, support and vigilance. Often the right kind of legal help.
- You need to understand their language. I suggest adding this to attack language: I need you to believe that you are (stupid, lazy, cruel, etc) in order to control you.
- You need to rebuild your esteem. To create enough emotional and physical safety that you can unroll from that little ball and start to soak up some light and some joy, and get to know that self again.
- You need to forgive yourself. Just because you aren’t perfect, doesn’t make this your fault. Just because you didn’t respond to trauma with the grace of an angel doesn’t make this your fault.
- You need love and encouragement to find your way out, not a kick in the shin for falling down.
I, me, Erin, am not the only one who can help you recover from a bullying relationship. But I promise you this. I won’t get tired of helping you override that toxic voice. I won’t give up on you. And I can help you find that seed within. The one that you hid for safekeeping so well you forgot that it ever existed.
But first you need to open your hands. You’re riding a pendulum in the carnival of horrors, that swings from self doubting, all of those haunting voices whispering that you are broken to berating you for falling for cruel trickery, and it keeps you the victim, back and forth and back and forth, creak creak. But if you are willing to let go of your death grip, there is a soft spot to land. It’s in the garden by the Daisy where there is room just for you.
— Love Erin
P.S. You’ve been asking me how to get your friends and loved ones the help I’ve been able to give you. We can do that. Contact me and we’ll talk details.
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